Frontier, Windstream's 2022 broadband grant tally surpasses $200M

Frontier Communications and Windstream have collectively raked in more than $210 million worth of broadband grants across nine states thus far in 2022, as the operators look to boost their fiber expansion plans with government support.

Frontier's VP of Grant Administration Diane Williams-Stinson told Fierce its wins in the first nine months of the year span seven states: California, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin. It scored what appeared to be its largest award of the year in North Carolina, snagging $9.7 million to cover more than 4,600 locations across three counties. The operator also bagged nearly $7.5 million in Wisconsin to cover about 15,200 locations across five counties.

Other winnings included $2.2 million in Indiana to serve 474 locations across four counties; $1.7 million to reach just under 3,000 locations in West Virginia; $818,962 to connect parts of Bedford County, Pennsylvania; and $560,463 to cover 94 locations in Harrison and Jefferson Counties in Ohio.

But the operator isn’t done yet. Frontier also applied for $2.5 million in grant funding from the state of Nebraska to cover more than 500 locations there. However, that application is currently under review following a challenge from Allo Communications earlier this month. Williams-Stinson told Fierce it also has pending applications in California, Illinois, Minnesota, North Carolina and West Virginia.

All told, since it began pursuing grants in mid-2021 after emerging from bankruptcy in April, Frontier has received more than $70 million in state funding, with more than $22.4 million of that coming in 2022 alone.

The grants come as Frontier pushes ahead with a multi-year plan to expand its fiber footprint to a total of 10 million passings. Williams-Stinson said the grant builds will add to the aforementioned target.

“These grants are an important step in rebuilding Frontier’s credibility with public officials since coming out of bankruptcy in 2021 and will support our expansion beyond 10 million by the end of 2025,” she said.

“We choose to apply for grants that enable us to expand to high-cost, low-density locations that today have no or very modest levels of connectivity,” Williams-Stinson continued. “We believe our success is attributable to several factors, the most important being that we build with fiber – a superior technology that provides the highest level of symmetrical consumer broadband service available today. Every grant-funded market will have access to our highest level of service –2 Gig.”

Windstream wins

Windstream, which is pursuing its own residential fiber expansion, is also seeing success in the state grant world. The operator has picked up wins this year in several of the same states as Frontier, including North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

In North Carolina, it won awards to cover locations in two counties, though the state did not release the funding totals granted. In Ohio, it snagged several awards totaling more than $6.5 million. Grants across three counties in Pennsylvania totaled around half a million dollars.

Beyond these, Windstream also bagged a major win in Georgia early in the year, scoring $171 million to reach more than 80,000 locations across 18 counties. It also won more than $11.5 million in Iowa.

Fierce previously reported cable operators Charter Communications and Comcast were winning the race for broadband grants in 2022, but that roundup was incomplete and did not account for Windstream’s massive award in Georgia.

Windstream also scooped up a fair number of grants in 2020 and 2021. These includes awards in Alabama and Arkansas last year as well as Nebraska and New Mexico in 2020.

Brad Brannon, SVP of Marketing and Strategy for Windstream’s Kinetic brand, told Fierce the grants it has secured to date are all “in rural, high-cost-to-serve areas in our existing network and in areas adjacent to it.”

He added “These grants supplement our ongoing fiber-to-the-home investment program, allowing us to expand premium broadband service to customers in very rural areas where it is too costly to deploy otherwise.”

Both Frontier and Windstream indicated they do not expect the grant projects to spark supply chain issues.